Millions of people around the world rely on reviews before making a purchase. Reviews range from a small coffee shop to business’s where large amounts of money are spent. The bad thing about reading reviews is the possibility you might be reading a review that is not only fake, but the person writing the review was paid. Have you ever encountered an ad online about writing reviews? If so, now is the time to flag that deceptive ad.
It may seem like writing and getting paid for fake reviews is a small issue, but nineteen companies have agreed to cease their practice of writing fake online reviews for businesses and pay over $350,000 in penalties. That is a great deal of money for these businesses in trouble. Fake reviews were found on Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch stated New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Who Is The Culprit?
“Astroturfers” are people that know how to spoof their IP address, so it’s hard to find the location the review is being written from, and these “astroturfers” are also able to remain anonymous. The Attorney General’s office spent a year investigation these schemes, and actually going undercover to gain evidence. Companies involved in this scheme were hiring their own employees to post fake reviews as far away as Phillippines, Bangladesh, and Eastern Europe for $1 – $10 a review. The common ad attracting these freelance writers was posted on Craigslist.org, Freelancer.com, and oDesk.com. Other companies were direct with their approach, and simply placed ads asking for people with established Yelp accounts to post reviews.
Unfortunately, astroturfing is not likely to go away. Consumers are going to have a really hard time distinguishing a real review from a fake ad, because astroturfers are so good at what they do. As a consumer it is your job to take your time before making any purchase, and read all of the websites pertaining to the merchandise you are about to buy.